Tyler Hilinski completed 26 of 31 passes for 223 yards and 1 TD (Bob Johnson/Cougfan.com)

Tyler Hilinski caps stellar WSU spring with big day in Spokane, ups challenge to roomie Peyton Bender in battle for No. 2

SPOKANE — Tyler Hilinski, the most productive quarterback on the field Saturday at Joe Albi Stadium, literally didn’t know who to root for during Washington’s State Crimson and Gray scrimmage.

“Both! Whichever team I was on?” he said immediately after the Gray posted a 24-12 win over the Crimson. “Cougs in general, right?”

Hilinski (pictured above) added that he just rooted for whichever team he was on. Because he played for both sides – making him both a winner and loser.

Combined, the second-year freshman completed 26 of 31 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. He engineered three touchdown drives – one for Crimson in the first half and two more in relief of Luke Falk with Gray in the second half.

The game put an exclamation point on a stellar spring for Hilinksi. In the team’s three scrimmages he completed a collective 54 of 72 passes (75 percent) for 407 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions.

Hilinski felt confident coming into this one.

“I was here last year and I had a fun time,” said the Upland, Calif. product who graduated from high school to early to get a jump on his WSU career. “It’s always great to get out and play in front of the Coug fans.

“I usually am nervous for games, but was feeling really confident coming in.”

Hilinski is battling to take over the No. 2 QB role from third-year sophomore Peyton Bender, who got off to a slow start Saturday in the first half and finished completing 16 of 21 passes for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The interception, by safety Shalom Luani, came after a frustrating series that saw Bender sacked on three straight plays before throwing over the middle, where Luani leaped high to snare the pass intended for River Cracraft.

Bender’s touchdown came on an 18-yard pass to sophomore Tavares Martin in the back of the end zone.

“(Tavares) is progressing just fine,” Bender said. “He’s a big playmaker. We’ve just got to find more ways to get the ball in his hands.”

Bender, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said Martin is making the position his own while taking over for the graduated Dom Williams.

“He plays a little bit differently than Dom,” he said. “You just have to work on your progressions, first read, second read.”

Bender said he’s fine competing with Hilinski for the job of backing up Luke Falk.

“We’re roommates,” he said. “It’s good. I support him, he supports me. Whoever wins the job, hats off to him.”

In three scrimmages this spring, Bender completed 36 of 52 passes (69 percent) for 364 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT.

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